India fails to meet illiteracy rate reduction target

A new Unesco global education report  says India could reduce illiteracy rate only by 26 percent


London: At the turn of the new millennium, India had planned to reduce its illiteracy by 50 percent in 15 years but it could only reach only the midway point.

According to a new Unesco global education report released on Thursday, the country could manage to reduce illiteracy rate only by 26 percent. Nearly 68 percent illiterate adults in India are women, the report says.

The world now has some 781 million illiterate adults.

Adult illiteracy has been a serious global worry. Only 17 out of 73 countries with a literacy rate below 95 percent in 2000 could halve their illiteracy rate by 2015.

“Literacy is fundamental for participating in society. However, the goal of halving global illiteracy rates by 2015 has been missed,” according to the report.

In South Asia, the adult female literacy rate increased from 47 percent in 2000 to 52 percent in 2010 and is expected to reach 60 percent by 2015, when the projected gender parity index will be 76 literate women for every 100 literate men. Overall, 64 percent of illiterate adults will be female in 2015.

As of 2012, almost 58 million children of primary school age were out of school. Based on the trends of the past five years, 57 million children would still be out of school in 2015.

India tops the list of child brides with about 24 million, around 40 percent of the world’s child marriages. India is also home to 225 million adolescents, nearly one-fifth of the nation’s total population. Around 16 percent of these girls – aged 15-19 – have already begun child bearing and 12 percent have had a live birth.

There is some good news for India. It is expected to become the only country in South and West Asia in 2015 to have an equal ratio of girls to boys in both primary and secondary education.

Another good news is that rural India saw substantial improvement in nearly all aspects of school facilities and infrastructure.

In 2010, around 45 percent schools had electricity compared to 20 percent earlier and 78 percent roads are paved within one kilometer of schools versus 63 percent earlier.

Since 2000, when countries committed themselves to the global education goals, India has reduced its out of school children by over 90% and Universal Primary Education has been achieved.

The bad news is that early marriage and adolescent pregnancies keep girls out of school in India.

In 41 countries, 30 percent women aged 20 to 24 were married by the age of 18. As many as 36.4 million women in developing countries aged 20 to 24 reported having given birth before age 18 and 2 million before age 15, The Times of India reported.

One of the main reasons behind an improvement in the number of girls visiting schools is the building of bathrooms. The report says “In India after a school latrine construction effort in the early 2000s, girls’ enrolment increased more than that of boys’ in schools with latrines. At younger ages, girls and boys both benefited substantially from latrines but separate latrines were a critical factor in adolescent girls’ enrolment”.

The report says that the problem of out-of-school children is becoming increasingly concentrated in conflict affected countries, where the proportion increased from 30 percent in 1999 to 36 percent in 2012.

As many as 100 million children are still not completing primary education, 61 million adolescents remain out of school and one third of adolescents in low income countries will not complete lower secondary school in 2015.

Globally, 47 percent of countries achieved universal pre-primary enrolment and another 8 percent were close, including India. Around 52 percent of countries achieved the target of universal enrolment in primary education, including India; 10% are close and the remaining 38 percent are far or from achieving it.

The numbers of pupils per teacher decreased in 83 percent countries between 1990 and 2012 at the primary level, but 4 million more teachers are still needed.

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